Are Silverfish Harmful to People?

Are Silverfish Harmful to People?


Silverfish, one of the oldest insects on the planet, look scary but aren’t harmful to humans. They’re neither poisonous nor prone to biting. However, they can be damaging to important items that you’ve stored in your home. Learn more about these prehistoric pests and what to do if you find them.

What Are Silverfish?

Silverfish are your least favorite surprise when you pull a box snacks out of the pantry in the middle of the night. They’re the frightening little bugs that you might find in a box of old books in the attic.

Silverfish are nocturnal insects that have existed on earth since before the dinosaurs. They appear silvery or grayish-blue, giving them their name. A silverfish will have a long, flat body, large antennae and similarly-long rear appendages. These bugs thrive in areas with moisture and warmth, such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, attics and basements.

Are Silverfish Harmful?

Silverfish are not a risk to humans or pets. Despite their threatening appearance and startling speed, these insects don’t bite and are not dangerous.

Silverfish are not poisonous and they don’t carry diseases. They’ll most likely flee if you find them in a kitchen cabinet or a shelf in the garage.

However, silverfish molt frequently as they grow and continue to molt as adults. The exoskeletons that they leave behind after molting can collect if unnoticed and cause irritation in people with allergies. Pet owners should prevent their pets from eating these bugs, though they aren’t disease carriers.

Items At Risk of Silverfish Damage

Silverfish aren’t harmful to people but they can damage things you cherish. You might see these bugs near their preferred food sources while they’re active at night. Silverfish consume mainly carbohydrates, such as sugars and starches. They have diverse diets that go beyond the food in your pantry to include common and potentially important household items.

Silverfish will eat many things, from pantry items and uncovered leftovers to magazines and clothes. Especially at risk are boxes of these materials in storage areas—attics and basements—that are typically humid and poorly ventilated. Damp clothes and clothes with stains are also more attractive to silverfish.

Silverfish can be damaging to some of the most important and sensitive things you’ve stored. Boxes of essential documents, precious collections of photos and closets full of stored clothes are all at risk of being damaged by silverfish.

Because silverfish eat starch and cellulose, they will damage books and newspapers, eating the glue in the covers and bindings of your favorite novels.

These pests can also eat through cardboard to get to pantry items such as sugar, cereal, rice and more. For this reason, it’s important to seal foods in glass or metal containers with tight-fitting lids.

In addition to stored clothes, other items of various fabrics are at risk of silverfish damage. You might find holes in bedding, tablecloths and curtains with starch or adhesives in them if silverfish are present in your home.

Silverfish won’t cause structural damage to your home but they are drawn to newly built homes and recent renovations. The fresh adhesives used in construction are very attractive to these pests.

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